Developing a range of shelf-ready products can be challenging in normal times, but throw in COVID-19, various lockdowns, homeschooling three children and running a small business, and those challenges add up.
Despite that, Jenny Moore from the Wimmera Grain Store has launched the Pulse Raisers snack range, made from chickpeas, faba beans and pulse flours, into the Hong Kong market.
Based in Rupanyup, Victoria, the Wimmera Grain Store is part of a family group of businesses that grow, clean, pack and market locally grown pulses.
Although the family farm ‘Overton’ has been growing chickpeas for decades – even roasting them for their own use – Jenny says they did not have the knowledge, skills or equipment to manufacture their own range of snacks.
However, she was able to make the most of a fortuitous opportunity that arose through a trading relationship. “We have had an interest in making snack food from chickpeas for a long time and had helped a large snack manufacturer develop the first Australian-made falafel chip. Then, by chance, we were approached by a small snack food manufacturing business looking for chickpea supply. That company was open to us buying some product back to put under our own brand.”
With that, Pulse Raisers was born. Today, it includes flavoured extruded yellow split pea and chickpea flour ‘straws’, as well as whole chickpeas and split faba beans. Products are available locally and, soon, via an ecommerce website.
As a graduate of two GRDC Australian Grains Innovation Programs, delivered by Farmers2Founders Jenny has found the help invaluable. “I had been playing around with Pulse Raisers for about 12 months before Farmers2Founders, but they really helped get the Hong Kong deal over the line and helped me to restructure things in the background, which will support future growth.
“We have made significant progress in putting in place a number of back-end initiatives, like a new ecommerce website, accounting system and social media platforms and strategy, but COVID-19 and the additional work that homeschooling creates means we have not been out visiting clients as much as we would in normal times.
“That said, a first export order of Pulse Raisers snacks into Hong Kong during COVID-19 was certainly a win. And, while they have also been impacted by the stop-start nature of COVID-19 and lockdown, customers there love our Pulse Raisers Straws and packaging. So we see great opportunity in this market for our products.”
Jenny says GRDC’s investment in innovation is important. “With the high price of farmland, climate change and yield variation, farming is riskier than it has ever been. Investment into non-traditional routes such as added value or ag-tech is essential.”
However, adding value to what you do, or developing an idea, is not as simple as it seems. “It requires a different skill set and access to a different network of suppliers and experts. That makes programs like Farmers2Founders, the Wimmera Development Association’s ‘Seeds of Growth’ and education opportunities through GRDC and Food Innovation Australia valuable.”
Jenny says that having access to innovation experts can help ideas move from a concept to implementation in a matter of weeks or months. “And this will save you time, money and heartache in the end. I see this sort of investment as being critical to creating a sustainable future for farming and farming communities in Australia for generations to come. I just wish I had found them five years ago.”
GRDC is supporting innovation investment through its Australian Grains Innovation Program. This includes the ‘Growers as Innovators’ and ‘Accelerator’ programs. In 2020/21, the programs were delivered in partnership with Farmers2Founders, SparkLabs Cultiv8 and Sprout X and provide support for innovation at different developmental stages. See Agtech innovation initiatives.